Joseph Cornell once wrote: “collage = reality.” Cornell was arguably one of the most “journalistic” artists of his time, in the sense that he wrote at length, and almost obsessively, about anything that interested him: the Romantic Ballet and its ballerinas; Jenny Lind; owls; the Medici family; the poetry of Novalis, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Emily Dickinson, and Marianne Moore; the music of Tchaikovsky, Carl Maria von Weber, Ravel, and Fauré; movies and movie actresses; and of course, his own work and the art of others. So it comes as a tiny shock, after all those wordy diary entries by a rather diffident and not especially self-confident man, to encounter the short sharp statement “collage = reality,” thoroughly self-confident and almost brutal in its brusqueness.
Perhaps Cornell made the statement in the manner of someone professing a religious belief. This would account for its seeming insouciance: “collage = reality” is not a personal statement of self-belief; rather, it is a way of looking at the world and much larger than he is, a modus vivendi to which Cornell willingly and ecstatically surrendered.
For more on the concept of collage = reality, see the post “The Nature of Inspiration (II)”